Top 4 Reasons You Haven’t Created an Estate Plan Yet
This is a very understandable feeling most people have about finally sitting down to think about the inevitable. We all lead very busy lives, and thinking about scary things like disability and death get pushed to the bottom of the pile. But having an estate plan in place is all about making life easier for your loved ones during an emotionally trying period. One of the first things we ask new clients when they sit down to discuss their wishes is, “What brought you in here today?” By far, the number one answer involves a family disaster after a loved one died without any advance planning in place, and our client wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Our philosophy at West Michigan Law is providing “Peace of Mind,” and nowhere is that more evident than the looks on our clients’ faces after signing wills and powers of attorney.
2. Who cares? I don’t have any money.
When a lot of people hear the phrase “estate planning,” all they think about is drafting a will to say who will get their “stuff.” If they don’t have much stuff, they just assume that estate planning is for rich people to figure out how not to pay death taxes. But estate planning can be important for your assets no matter the size. For example, did you know a court order is required to open a safety deposit box by a non-owner? Do you know the consequences of adding a joint owner to real estate or a bank account? Do you know who the beneficiaries are for your 401(k) plan or life insurance policy? At West Michigan Law, we take the time to talk through each of your assets to figure out the simplest way to make sure it ends up where you want.
3. My spouse or kids will just take care of everything.
What may be the most common misconception about estate planning is the belief a person can simply make all end of life and estate decisions for their spouse or parents. But there is no specific legal authority in Michigan automatically authorizing a spouse to make healthcare decisions and act as a legal advocate for the patient. It is still very important for married couples to have an up-to-date health care power of attorney that describes their end of life wishes and names a patient advocate to make those decisions. We will also often see a parent place one of their children as the joint owner on a bank account, with the intent that the child distribute the account evenly among all of the siblings upon the parent’s death. But the joint owner child has the legal right to keep the entire account, potentially leading to many hard feelings and unintended consequences.
4. Attorneys are too expensive and confusing.
If you find the right estate planning attorney, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are definitely cheap do-it-yourself forms available on the internet, but the role of an attorney is not to just provide a cookie cutter form and simply have you sign it. There is no single planning solution that applies to all, as every client has a unique set of family dynamics, objectives, assets, goals and wishes. A good estate planning attorney will be your advocate in developing a plan that implements your complex goals as simply as possible.
Our process at West Michigan Law is to send you an estate planning questionnaire in advance of our first meeting. This form gets you thinking about who you would like to receive your assets and who will be in the best position to execute your wishes when you are no longer able. At our first meeting, most of the time will be spent getting to know you and your story. We will then discuss the different estate planning documents that will be prepared, and you will leave the first meeting knowing exactly what the cost will be for your estate plan. If you decide not to go forward from there for any reason, there is no charge for the initial meeting. We typically ask for a 50% deposit of the fixed fee in order to prepare the documents, which are emailed to you for review in advance of our second meeting. At the second signing meeting, we will review the specific items in your estate plan, and will likely make your hand hurt by signing 3 copies of everything. After the second meeting, an additional service we provide is that the quoted fixed fee includes any follow-up questions or concerns you have for 30 days after singing the documents, including making any necessary revisions to the documents.
If you are interested in learning more about our approach to providing you Peace of Mind through advance planning, please give us a call at 231.457.4235, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the below contact box.